November 14th, 2023 at 10:26pm CST by Adam La Rose
In the aftermath of another underwhelming performance, the Bills are making a signficant change on the sidelines. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has been fired, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The team has since confirmed the move.
The Bills have struggled to an extent on offense in 2023, Dorsey’s second year in charge of the unit. He will be replaced by quarterbacks coach Joe Brady, Schefter adds. The latter has also been in Buffalo since 2022, having previously served as the Panthers’ offensive coordinator under head coach Matt Rhule.
The departure of Brian Daboll led to questions about Buffalo’s ability to remain amongst the league’s top offenses with Dorsey at the helm. It came as little surprise when the Bills decided to look in-house for Daboll’s successor, promoting Dorsey from the QB coach position he had held with the team for the previous three years. While Buffalo has posted strong statistical showings during Dorsey’s time as OC, he has been dismissed in the hopes of providing a spark for the unit and getting the team’s postseason push back on track.
The Bills ranked second in the league in both total and scoring offense last season, a sign that the switch to Dorsey could have been one with long-term appeal. However, the team suffered a lackluster defeat in the postseason during the divisional round, and week-to-week consistency has been hard to come by in 2023. This year, Buffalo sits eighth in the NFL in both points (26) and yards (377) per game.
After recording three straight high-scoring wins starting in Week 2, the Bills have failed to score 30 points in their last six games. Turnovers have been a major issue for the unit, which has led to increased criticism of quarterback Josh Allen. Aiming to produce a rebound from their franchise passer, the team will now proceed with a new face for the stretch run. Today’s move will leave Buffalo with neither the offensive nor defensive coordinator which was in place following the end of the 2022 campaign.
DC Leslie Frazier stepped away from football in February, though he intends to return to the sidelines either as a coordinator or a head coach in the future. Head coach Sean McDermott has called plays on defense this season, and that unit has not delivered to the extent it has in past seasons. Injuries on defense have been a major storyline for Buffalo this year, but McDermott has drawn criticism on a number of fronts, including most recently the disorganization which resulted in a penalty to give the Broncos a chance to win in come-from-behind fashion last night. In the wake of that special teams mistake, McDermott will move forward with a new voice for the offense.
Dorsey will now join the 2024 coaching cycle early. The 42-year-old interviewed with the Panthers for their head coaching vacancy last offseason. Given the manner in which his Buffalo tenure has come to an end, it will be interesting to see how much of a market he generates in the winter. Buffalo, meanwhile, will aim for a step forward in efficiency with Brady at the helm.
JaMycal Hasty was waived by the Jaguars this past weekend following a year-plus with the organization. The running back had 320 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns during his first season in Jacksonville but was limited to only three games and zero touches this year. He’ll be hard pressed to carve out a role in New England with Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott leading the depth chart.
After a 2022 rule change, teams can activate up to eight players from injured reserve. That has reintroduced some strategy into how franchises proceed with their activations, and teams will again need to be cognizant of their activation counts in 2023.
The NFL had reintroduced IR-return options in the 2010s, after a period in which an IR move meant a player’s season was over. But the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the league to loosen restrictions on IR from 2020-21. Teams were permitted to use unlimited activations to start the decade, but roster math is again a consideration.
Players who land on IR after cutdown day must miss at least four games. Once a team designates a player for return, the activation clock starts. Clubs have 21 days from a player’s return-to-practice date to activate that player. If no activation commences in that window, the player reverts to season-ending IR.
Here is how the NFL’s IR situations look for Week 14:
Yesterday’s Panthers-Bears game carried signficant draft implications, as many noted in the build-up to the primetime matchup. With Carolina having dealt its 2024 first-round pick to Chicago as part of the deal involving last year’s No. 1 selection, the Bears were able to boost their chances of picking first in April with a win.
Owning the top selection in a draft touted for having multiple high-end options at the quarterback spot would of course add further to the speculation surrounding Justin Fields. The Bears gave the 24-year-old a vote of confidence last spring by trading out of the No. 1 slot, but he has yet to develop as hoped this season. Chicago could opt for a fresh start under center (particularly if they declined Fields’ fifth-year option) this spring while also having the opportunity to add help elsewhere on the roster with their own first-rounder, which seems destined to fall within the top 10 or perhaps even top five selections.
Of course, teams like the Giants, Cardinals and Patriots have experienced signficant troubles of their own this year. A continuation of their first half performances could leave them in pole position for the Caleb Williams–Drake Mayesweepstakes. All three teams face potential uncertainty with respect to their current passers’ futures, despite each having term remaining on their respective contracts.
For non-playoff teams, the draft order will be determined by the inverted 2024 standings — plus a series of tiebreakers, starting with strength of schedule — with playoff squads being slotted by their postseason outcome and regular-season record. With plenty still to be sorted out over the coming months, here is an early look at the current draft order:
A week removed from this year’s trade deadline, every team will soon have its acquired talent in uniform. The 49ers, Lions and Jaguars made trades while in bye weeks; Chase Young, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Ezra Cleveland will suit up for their new teams soon.
On this note, it is time to gauge the position every notable buyer and seller landed in following the deals. This year’s deadline featured two second-round picks being moved, though the teams that made those moves (Chicago, Seattle) have different timelines in place.
We have to start with the Commanders, who scrapped their yearslong Young-Montez Sweatpartnership by making the surprise decision to move both defensive ends hours before the deadline. Although the team was listening to offers on both, it was widely assumed they would only part with one, thus saving a contract offer or a 2024 franchise tag for the other alongside well-paid D-tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. New owner Josh Harris looks to have made his bigger-picture plan clear, however, pressing upon the Commanders’ football-ops department to explore moving both.
Washington collected a second-rounder that likely will land in the 30s in exchange for Sweat, who was in a contract year at the time. It only obtained a compensatory third for Young, who drew interest from other teams (including the Ravens). For the first time in the common draft era, Washington holds five picks in the first three rounds. It cannot be assumed Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew will be making those picks, but Harris has effectively forced his hot-seat staffers to make do this season without Young and Sweat, who have combined for 11.5 sacks this year.
The initial team to pounce on the Commanders’ sale made a buyer’s move despite being in a seller’s position for the second straight year. After trading what became the No. 32 overall pick for Chase Claypool, GM Ryan Poles signed off on the Sweat pickup. The Bears have struggled to rush the passer under Matt Eberflus, having traded Khalil Mack in March 2022 and Robert Quinn last October. While acquiring a veteran in a contract year injects risk into the equation, Poles had the franchise tag at his disposal. But the Bears made good use of their newfound negotiating rights with Sweat, extending him on a four-year, $98MM pact. Despite no Pro Bowls or double-digit sack seasons, Sweat is now the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid edge rusher. Though, the Bears’ long-term edge outlook appears rosier compared to its pre-Halloween view.
Mayhew, Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel have provided third-round compensatory picks for the 49ers, who have been the NFL’s chief beneficiary of the Rooney Rule tweak that awards third-round picks to teams who see minority coaches or execs become HCs or GMs. The team has more picks coming after the Ran Carthon and DeMeco Ryans hires. Using one to acquire Young seems like a low-risk move, given the former Defensive Rookie of the Year’s talent. Young has made strides toward recapturing the form he showed before his severe 2021 knee injury, and he is on pace for a career high in sacks.
The Young move came a day after the Seahawks obtained Leonard Williams from the Giants. That move cost Seattle second- and fifth-round picks. Williams is also in a contract year, but with the Giants picking up most of the tab, Seattle has the veteran D-tackle on its cap sheet at $647K. The former Jets top-10 pick has shown consistent ability to provide inside pressure, and the USC alum’s best work came in his previous contract year (2020). Gunning for another big payday, Williams joins Dre’Mont Jones in what is probably the best interior D-line duo of the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll era.
Seattle still surrendered a second-round pick for a player who could be a rental. Williams cannot realistically be franchise-tagged in 2024, with the Giants tagging him in 2020 and ’21, and he is not yet on Seattle’s extension radar. The Giants have already paid Dexter Lawrence and were planning on letting Williams walk. They passed on a comp pick for the trade haul, effectively buying a second-round pick in the way the Broncos did in the 2021 Von Miller trade. The Giants, who suddenly could be in the market for a 2024 QB addition, now have an additional second-rounder at their disposal.
While they made their move a week before the deadline, the Eagles landed the most accomplished player of this year’s in-season trade crop. Kevin Byard is a two-time first-team All-Pro safety, and although he is in his age-30 season, the former third-round pick is signed through 2024. The Eagles sent the Titans fifth- and sixth-round picks (and Terrell Edmunds) for Byard, a Philadelphia native, marking the team’s second splash trade for a safety in two years. Philly’s C.J. Gardner-Johnson swap turned out well, and Byard not being a pure rental could make this a better move.
Rather than turning to a fifth-round rookie, the Vikings acquired Josh Dobbs in a pick swap involving sixth- and/or seventh-rounders and saw the move translate to a surprising Week 9 win. Dobbs following in Baker Mayfield‘s footsteps as a trade acquisition-turned-immediate starter also made him the rare QB to see extensive action for two teams in two weeks; Mayfield was inactive in his final game as a Panther. The well-traveled Dobbs could give the Vikings a better chance to stay afloat in the NFC playoff race.
The Jets have decided to shoulder the risk of bringing on Winfrey, who was waived by the Browns in July after facing his second allegation of violence against a woman. He was not charged with anything in the case that led to his release from Cleveland, but combined with past off-field incidents, the allegations were enough to propel him towards free agency.
Leonard Fournettewill have to wait at least one week to make his Bills debut, but he has already spoken about the deal sending him to Buffalo to close out the season. The veteran back recently touched on his lengthy free agent process, which included suitors other than his new team.
“I had a couple teams reach out to me,” Fournette said, via Nick Wojton of BillsWire. “But I really wanted to do what’s best for me, a fresh start out here in Buffalo. I have a lot left in the tank to play, it was all about the right opportunity.”
It came as no surprise that the 28-year-old finalized a deal with Buffalo, given Harris’ absence and their previously-arranged visit. That was ultimately canceled, but Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed when speaking to the media after the agreement that the sides remained in contact. Now that a deal is in place, it will be interesting to see how much Fournette is used down the stretch and thus the degree to which he can help his free agent value ahead of 2024.
The Super Bowl winner averaged exactly 4.0 yards per carry with both the Jaguars and Buccaneers during his three-year stints with each franchise, serving as a focal point of Tampa Bay’s offense in the postseason during the team’s title run. However, Fournette received little interest during the offseason (one in which the RB position as a whole saw its finanal valuation continue to decline) after his Buccaneers release, having to wait deep into the campaign to find a deal. While his remarks indicate that was partially by choice, he will no doubt need to produce at a notable level in the coming weeks to generate a larger market for his services in the spring.
With Matthew Stafford listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game, the Rams are adding some depth at the quarterback position. Dresser Winn had a breakout 2022 campaign at UT Martin, tossing 18 touchdowns while adding another three scores on the ground. He joined the Rams as an UDFA but was cut at the end of the preseason. He had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League before rejoining the Rams practice squad earlier this week. If Stafford can’t go, Brett Rypien will get the call under center for the Rams.
Peters will be elevated for the second straight week in Seattle. The 41-year-old, playing in his 19th NFL season, split snaps with right tackle Stone Forsythe last week against Cleveland.
Here are a few details on recent contract restructures around the NFL:
Last week, the Bills and left tackle Dion Dawkinsagreed to a restructured deal to help create some cap space, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Buffalo converted $5.18MM of Dawkins’ 2023 base salary into a signing bonus, clearing up $3.9MM of cap space.
The Dolphinsrestructured the contract of kicker Jason Sanders earlier this month, per Jason Fitzgerald of overthecap.com. While the specifics have not yet been reported, Sanders’ cap hit in 2023 will be lessened from $3.7MM to $2.4MM.
After coming up in trade rumors, Kaiir Elamwill now be sidelined for an extended stretch. The Bills corner has been placed on injured reserve, per a team announcement.
As a result of the move, Elam will be required to miss at least the next four games. An ankle injury is the cause of the former first-rounder’s absence, though he has been a healthy scratch at multiple points this season. That lack of Year 2 development led to a report from last week indicating Elam was on the trade block. However, general manager Brandon Beane made it clear after this week’s trade deadline that no consideration was given to moving on from the 22-year-old.
To fill the open roster spot created by Elam being sidelined, the Bills have signed defensive tackle Linval Joseph. The 35-year-old signed with the Eagles last November, and he helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl while serving in a depth capacity (38% snap share). Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports Joseph’s one-year pact has a maximum value of $3.72MM.
The two-time Pro Bowler has logged 179 games across his time with the Giants, Vikings, Chargers and Eagles. He will meet Buffalo’s stated intention of making an addition along the defensive interior while using up a portion of the team’s remaining spending power. The Bills entered Thursday with $3.64MM in cap space, so the base value of Joseph’s deal will drop the figure to an extent. If he can provide a rotational presence for a banged-up defense down the stretch, though, his addition will prove to be worthwhile.